A woman who feared her partner would leave her because she couldn't have children has told of how he proposed to her instead, saying he "didn't love her for her womb".
Ruth Wood, 33, from Kidderminster in Worcestershire, had to have a hysterectomy after being diagnosed with an aggressive type of cervical cancer.
Following the surgical procedure, which saw her womb removed and meant she'd never be able to carry her own children, she gave her other half, sales manager Matthew Wood, 41, the option to walk out.
But instead he proposed and told her he loved her because she was his best friend and soul mate - not for her womb.
Probation officer Ruth, who has now been given the all-clear, said: "I was 32 and wanted to have a child.
"I have always wanted a massive family, and Matthew and I had talked about it since we got together after meeting in 2011.
"I came home one day after being told I'd need a hysterectomy and said to Matthew, 'If you want children you can leave'.
"Matthew said, 'I didn't want to be with you because you have a womb. I want to be with you because you're my best friend, you make me laugh and I love you'.
"He told me never to say that again, that leaving wasn't on his agenda and that I didn't need to have that fear. And from then on I haven't."
Before the diagnosis, Ruth had suffered no symptoms, and so was not worried when she went along for a routine smear test in March 2014.
However, three weeks later, she got a letter telling her she had high-grade dyskaryosis, meaning there had been a change in her cells.
"I became a bit anxious, and didn't want to think there was anything wrong with me," she said.
"Matthew was saying, 'Don't worry, I'm sure this happens, you will be grand'.
"He was really supportive, and my friends reassured me too."
Ruth went for a coloscopy - a procedure to find out whether there are abnormal cells on the cervix - in June 2014.
Three weeks later, she received another letter with a date and time for an appointment at Kidderminster Hospital in Worcestershire.
The 33-year-old said: "I just knew. I had a gut feeling something wasn't right.
"My mum Mary Pawsey, 65, and Matthew came with me to the appointment, and Matthew had to basically drag me into the gynaecology department.
"All of a sudden, somebody came out in the Macmillan uniform and I knew it wasn't going to be good news.
"The doctor said, 'I'm afraid to tell you that you have cervical cancer and are going to need a hysterectomy, a surgical procedure where the womb is removed and you will no longer be able to have children after the operation'.
"I remember really swearing at him and my mum saying, 'I'm so sorry, she was not brought up to speak like that'."
The next appointment Ruth had that day was with an oncologist, who she said is now one of her favourite people.
She said he told her everything honestly, could see she was in shock and was patient, explaining everything five times if he needed to.
Within a week she had CT and MRI scans, also at Kidderminster Hospital. Then, she faced a tense two weeks wait for the results to see how advanced her cancer was.
She said: "I became irrational and thought this was my death sentence.
"Scans showed the cancer was contained in the cervix and I felt elated, like I'd won the lottery."
First, Ruth opted for a trachelectomy - surgical removal of the uterine cervix - as this preserves fertility.
The operation was done in August 2014 at New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton.
However, because her cancer was so aggressive it was recommended by her oncologist that she should have a hysterectomy.
"You have to make massive decisions," she said. "Matthew and I talked and talked and talked and we decided it was more important to preserve my life than for me to try and get pregnant.
"We didn't want to risk the cancer coming back.
"Matthew said from the onset that it was my decision, but he said he wanted me alive. He said to me, 'I want a long, happy, future with you, and that's the priority'."
Ruth finally had a hysterectomy in October 2014, also at New Cross Hospital.
It wasn't the first time cancer had entered the couple's lives either. Matthew's mum Shirley died of breast cancer in July 2013, and he lost his dad Brian to prostate cancer in April 2014.
Ruth's mum Mary had also fought breast cancer in November 2013 and was given the all-clear in March 2014.
She said: "I thought, 'What else can happen to us?'
"We went through more in the first few years of our relationship than some people do in life, but Matthew has been incredible."
Before Ruth had had either of her surgeries, she had a surprise proposal.
She said: "It was August 1, before both surgeries, and he proposed to me.
"We were at home, he got down on one knee with a diamond ring and said 'you're my soul mate and you complete me' – and he told me he'd asked my dad.
"He also said, 'And it's not because you've got cancer and I feel sorry for you, but the fact this has happened has made me realise I don't want to lose you'.
"Sometimes in the most awful circumstances, good things happen."
Ruth was given the all-clear in November 2014 back at Kidderminster Hospital.
She has since had three smear tests and a CT scan, all of which show no evidence of any reoccurrence.
"There was no feeling like it. I had to pinch myself," she recalled.
The happy couple tied the knot on September 26, 2015 at Pershore Abbey, Worcestershire, among 100 family members and friends
"It was a gorgeous day with tears and celebration," the newlywed said.
"After the wedding, people that don't know me well would always ask if babies were next up.
"I'd just say 'Well I haven't got a womb so...'
"I still want to be a parent and raise a child. There are millions of children out there looking to be part of a family, so we will look at fostering and adoption.
"I'm also very lucky to have step children, as Matthew has two children from a previous relationship."
Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from January 24-30.
Figures from Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust show that almost 3.7 million women across the UK aren't attending their cervical screening.
The UK has one of the worst survival rates of cervical cancer and diagnoses have risen by 4%.
Among 25-29 year olds, one in three do not attend appointments.
Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust have launched their 2016 #SmearForSmear campaign to encourage more women to go for their smear tests.
For more information or support please visit jostrust.org.uk or call their national helpline on 0808 802 8000.Suggest a correction